Sep 27, 2019: India’s Rahil Gangjee turned up the heat in his title defence at the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship after posting a bogey-free round of an eight-under-par 63 to seize a one-shot halfway lead on Friday.
The 40-year-old Indian, who closed with an eagle for his opening 70, picked up from where he left off as he fired eight birdies to move atop the leaderboard with a nine-under-par 133 total at the ¥150,000,000 (approximately US$1,338,067) event.
Japanese heartthrob Ryo Ishikawa bounced back brilliantly from his opening 72 as he sizzled with a course record-tying 62 to grab a share of second place with countryman Shugo Imahira (69), Korea’s Sanghee Lee (67) and Lu Wei-chih (69) of Chinese Taipei at the Higashi Hirono Golf Club.
Order of Merit leader Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand battled to a 69 to lurk two shots off the pace in sixth place alongside a host of players, including Ajeetesh Sandhu of India, who produced the shot of the day when he aced the 11th hole with a six-iron from 191 yards.
Gangjee is chasing to become the first player to successfully defend his title at the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship, which is celebrating its 10th edition on the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO) this week.
The Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship is the concluding leg of the 2018/19 Panasonic Swing. The Panasonic Swing is based on an aggregate point ranking earned by players at the following five tournaments – 2018 Thailand Open, 2018 Panasonic Open India, 2018 Indonesian Masters, 2019 Maybank Championship (Malaysia) and 2019 Panasonic Open Golf Championship (Japan).
The top-three finishers upon the conclusion of the 2019 Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship will share a bonus pool of US$150,000 where they will earn US$70,000, US$50,000 and US$30,000 respectively via the reward scheme.
Did you know?
- Rahil Gangjee ended a 14-year title drought when he won his second Asian Tour title at the 2018 Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship last year.
- He became only the second foreigner, following Australian Brendan Jones in 2010, to win the prestigious event.
- In his solid round of 63, Gangjee missed only three greens in regulation, found 10 fairways and needed only 25 putts.
- Gangjee finished second on the 2017/18 Panasonic Swing, thanks to his victory at the Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship last year.
- Gangjee first won on the Asian Tour in 2004 in China where he beat a top field that included Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes Phillip Price, Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo.
- He had several close finishes since then, most notably at the 2014 Panasonic Open India in 2014 when he lost in a play-off to S.S.P. Chawrasia.
- Gangjee enters the week in good form, having secured his first top-10 finish on the Japan Golf Tour two weeks ago and a top-20 finish in Korea last week, which is his best result on the Asian Tour so far this season.
- Lu Wei-chih is a four-time winner on the Asian Tour. All of his victories on the Asian Tour have come from home soil in Chinese Taipei.
- In 2012, Lu underwent brain surgery to remove a non-malignant tumour which put him out of action for close to a year.
- Although he posted only one top-10 in the subsequent seasons upon his return, Lu was simply relieved he could compete again after his major health scare.
- He secured his first top-10 result this season at the Diamond Cup in Japan earlier in May. Apart from that, he had made only two cuts in eight other starts on Tour. He sits in 63rd position on the Order of Merit.
- Ryo Ishikawa won his first Japan Golf Tour event, the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup, when he was only 15 years 8 months and 3 days old.
- The 28-year-old Ishikawa was playing that event as an amateur in his first Japan Golf Tour start, and winning the tournament made him the youngest winner ever on the Japan Golf Tour.
- Ishikawa turned professional in 2008 and by the end of the year he had become the youngest ever player to reach the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), ending the year ranked 60th.
- After a few years on the PGA Tour, Ishikawa returned to play full time on the Japan Golf Tour in 2018.
- Following a lean spell with no victories in 2017-18, Ishikawa won this year’s Japan PGA Championship and Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGASAMMY Cup in consecutive starts on the Japan Golf Tour.
- He is currently leading the Japan Golf Tour Money Ranking and has climbed to 110th on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) after being ranked 300th at the end of June this year, which was his lowest position since 2008.
- Ishikawa tied the course record with his sizzling 62. The record was previously shared by Yuta Ikeda and Masanori Kobayashi who shot matching 62s in the opening round and the final round respectively at the 2012 Panasonic OPEN Golf Championship.
- Shugo Imahira topped the Merit rankings on the Japan Golf Tour in 2018. He was a former member of the Asian Tour in 2016 and 2017.
- He sits in 72nd place on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) as the second highest-ranked Japanese. The 26-year-old, who hails from Saitama, is the highest-ranked Japanese in the 132-man field this week.